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FCW Insider: All those people leaving USDA -- it's apparently an opportunity

So I wrote last week about the changes going on over at the Agriculture Department. And, in fact, there are more changes. In addition to the three departures on the CIO side of USDA's shop, there are also some departures on the CFO side as well. Wendy Snow, the associate CFO for financial systems, is leaving at the end of the month.

All of these departures have people... well, buzzing about what is going there on Independence Avenue. And something must have spurred USDA CFO/CIO Charles Christopherson to take notice and he put out a memo yesterday to all the CIO and CFO staff. FCW's Mary Mosquera wrote about the memo, but I'm posting the text of it below... Apparently all these people leaving is actually "a great opportunity for all of us."

And just in case anybody thinks that I'm taking parts of the memo out of context, you can read the whole thing for yourself. I have posted the entire text below and you can make of it what you will.

I don't believe that I've ever met Christopherson or even seen him speek, but I've been asking around in recent weeks. What I'm told is that he is a big believer in the Lean Six Sigma stuff, as he references in the memo. But there are very diverse opinions of him. Some people say he is very impressive -- a man who has ideas and is looking to carry them out. Others... well, others are not that impressed. They see him as somebody who takes credit for others ideas.

As I say, I have never met him, so I can't make an independent determination. But it does seem like there are a lot of good people exiting, and I thinkChristopherson's explanation -- that this was expected -- goes very far.

Here is the memo sent to the CIO/CFO shop:

Over the last week several employees at various levels have voiced their concern over the current and soon to be SES vacancies in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) and the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO). Let me assure you that the vacancies were expected and came at no great surprise.

There are many employees that are currently eligible to retire from the SES ranks. In preparation for this, OCFO began looking for methods to provide advanced level training that would enable individual leadership to be successful. This high level of training was implemented through Lean Six Sigma classes.  Since anyone can manage a stagnant organization; Lean Six Sigma allowed us to see employees who could:

  • manage with vision;

  • create a team atmosphere;

  • acknowledge that processes and operations are not perfect and require continuous improvements in customer service, quality, cost, and speed;

  • and provide insight and forethought to accomplish tasks to close the initiative.

For the employees the Lean Six Sigma projects provided clear, successful examples that can be used for SES qualification requirements.  Through this training we were very impressed with many of our GS-15, GS-14, and GS-13 employees.  We have started this training with the CIO staff and plan to continue the class this year.  Therefore, we are well prepared for the upcoming retirements with strong employees qualified for interim management and to compete for the vacant positions.

Experienced senior executives know that change often creates attrition of key individuals.  The potential impact of these changes was discussed with the Secretary’s office and we are confident that these changes will create an organization that would:

  • Mitigate the risk of cyber security and exposure of PII;

  • Provide better vision for hardware and software architecture;

  • Assure a stable network operation;

  • Allow for cost saving in maintenance to move investments into development;

  • Provide for electronic processes and procedure for business support;

  • And allow agencies to focus less on federal requirements and more on citizen centric applications to support mission programs.

As I have reviewed the CIO organization, once again, I find high quality GS-15, GS-14 and GS-13 employees.  These employees will the opportunity to continue to display their strong leadership skills and have the benefit of additional career building opportunities.

The area that I expect there will be a small void is the review of documents and the answering of questions that current SES management provides.  To address this void we have certain GS managers that will attend CFO/CIO staff meetings and will designate a leader for each organization. For OCFO, Jon Holladay had been named the acting Deputy CFO. For OCIO, Chris Smith will be the acting Deputy CIO.

This is a great opportunity for all of us, and I appreciate your management skills and hard work as we move Department of Agriculture to be one of the best financial and technical organizations in the world.

I'm not sure many USDA people are feeling the opportunity at the moment.


Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on Jan 23, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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